Since 2011, I have shared my “Instant Post-Conference Thoughts” immediately after each session concludes. That is roughly 80+ sessions and 800+ talks. It is, by far, the most popular thing I do on this blog. (My ISP probably wonders why my blog crashes the server two weekends a year.)
Taking those notes and adding quick commentary is a huge blessing to me, as it causes me to focus intently. No naps, no ditching, and limited snacks during hymns. By the end of the weekend, I am usually exhausted and ready to not think about Conference for a few days.
This year has been a little different. What was taught has really stuck in my brain and caused a lot of self-reflection this past week. All good.
One thing about this Conference that struck me is how often I felt like I was getting “called out” for something I need to do, something I need to stop doing, or something I need to do better.
Usually when I get called to repentance, I feel guilty, or at least sheepish. This time, while I acknowledge my ever-present need to do a little better, this Conference I felt…happy about it. Yeah, weird.
Maybe it was because so much of the Conference was centered around how we can experience more joy in this life and the life to come. I am always up for more joy. In this context, the calls to repentance were often linked to the potential of increased joy. It made getting called out feel less punitive, and more motivating.
Most conversation about Conference have been wildly positive. The Saints are excited to move forward and felt last weekend was joyous. That said, there were a few things that led to interesting – and mildly negative – conversations that I feel are worth addressing. Two things in particular came up frequently:
- If there are this many changes, this fast, we must have been doing things wrong all this time.
- I’m not thrilled about the whirlwind of changes, because I liked a lot of the ways things were done before.
Before addressing either of these thoughts, I must make the point that in all of the changes we have seen, in organization, temple, teaching, youth, etc., none of them are doctrinal in nature. The doctrine stays the same. The changes are about policies, application of policies and how things are run. None of these changes even touch the core doctrines of the Church, rather, they reinforce them, and even make them more accessible.
Have we been doing things wrong? Maybe some of them. In a Gospel that teaches the need for constant improvement, why should we expect anything less from the Church? If there are things that could function better, instruct better, and serve better, it would seem that it is a reflection of progress in the right direction.
Times change. What may have been right in 1990, might fail miserably in 2019. What worked for a Utah-centric, homogenous Church 100 years ago have little application for a worldwide Church nowadays.
If I upgrade my phone from an old flip phone to a smartphone, does that lessen how cool and useful that flip phone once was? Nope. But I know the new one will do more for me.
We are all familiar with the concept of “Line upon line, precept upon precept.” (Many of us can still sing it.) When you look at that script in context, it is helpful.
“And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God.
For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith. (D&C 98:11-12)
It has ALWAYS been meant to be an incremental process. for us as individuals, and as a Church. The changes that have accelerated over the past two years are merely a reflection of the simple notion that “we know constant change is here to stay.” (link)
What can account for the flurry of changes? Revelation. The modern prophets have made it clear that these changes are to help prepare us for the return of the Savior. President Nelson went as far as to warn us that “Time is running out.” (link) The urgency is real.
I am willing to admit that I am not thrilled about all of the changes. Why? One reason is that I am reaching curmudgeon status, and am becoming more change-resistant. That however, is usually remedied by some thoughtful pondering and patience or just plain proving things to myself.
The other difficulty with change that some of us have is that we liked the way some things were before the change. There are some that loved Scouting as the activity arm of the young men’s program and are distraught to see it go. Others loved their High Priest group, others loved the Duty to God and Personal Progress programs.
Personally, some of the things that are gone were things I enjoyed. and things that I felt served my family very well. For example, I LIKED the three hour block, and feel less connected to the ward now. I feel my kids were well-served by EFY. I enjoyed the Hill Cumorah Pageant. I enjoyed Cub Scouts. I was proud to be called a “Mormon.” (And enjoyed using the moniker MMM.)
Mostly, I felt that the way Church ran things while I was raising my kids served us well, and it has worked out pretty well for us so far.
Here are two keys that help me understand why what I like doesn’t matter:
- It isn’t just about just me and my family. It is obvious that the Church is more diverse and broad than what my little family represents. The Church needs to try and accommodate everyone, even though we are all at different levels of commitment, understanding and testimony.
- What worked the past two decades could very well not work today – even for my family. Times are changing. Society is changing. It seems to be much tougher now to raise a family in the gospel than it was even twenty years ago. You know the expression “you can’t step in the same river twice.” I think it applies here. Time marches on, and things change. Using the same approach in 2019 as we did in 1999, or even 2018 would be naive at best, foolhardy at worst.
The crux of that matter is that I believe in God’s prophets. I believe in them enough to move forward with the new, and accept, adapt and eventually embrace the changes.
Not only do I believe that the changes will bless me and my EC, but also my children, and my grandchildren – because they will be growing up in a different world than I did.
Back to the beginning: As I reflect on Conference weekend, and think about the changes, I care less about what the changes are, and move to embrace them, I see them for what they are: The Lord’s guidance to help us be more truly converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to help us attain joy in this life, and the life to come.
“…ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God. For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith.“
Yes, how well we embrace change is something we will be judged on.
There’s no point in looking back when what we are striving for waits ahead of us.